UW-Health educators work to curb vaccine hesitancy in underserved communities

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact communities of color at a disproportionate rate, and UW-Health vaccine educators are working to curb hesitancy.

44 percent of White Wisconsinites have at least one dose, compared to just 23 percent of Black Wisconsinites.

Vaccine educators pick up the phone and call patients. The goal is to get to the bottom of why they won’t get vaccinated, hoping the call ends with a change of heart.

“I’m just terrified to come out the house,” Kimberly Green Ford, UW-Health patient said.

Ford stays between her four walls and patio hoping to steer clear of Covid.

“Just the trees, sunshine and seeing the kids play,” she said. “Just smelling the roses.”

She kept an optimistic attitude even when life threw her a curve ball.

“My leg was amputated because I had gangrene due to diabetes,” she said.

The underlying condition makes her high risk for covid. She said the likelihood of getting the vaccine was still low.

“You just don’t know what to believe,” she said.

Ford said mistrust in the healthcare system and vaccine misinformation were driving factors in her decision making until a UW-Health vaccine educator changed her mind.

“I’m very stubborn. It’s very hard to please me, but she really reassured me that everything is going to be okay,” she said.

Vicki Bankston, UW-Health vaccine educator, called Ford not once, but twice.

“We cannot tell them what we think or how they should think, but we have to listen to their thoughts and their passions or frustrations or misunderstandings,” she said.

Her goal was to curb Ford’s hesitancy and understand why she was skeptical.

“We have to at least show empathy that is a big part of what we must do,” Ford said.

She added trust is a big factor.

“If we are part of African American community, they have to believe that they are talking to an African American,” she said. “They have to trust that they are talking to someone who understands what they feel and I’m really passionate about that.”

Bankston and six other vaccine educators call patients from a list of more than 2,000 people in Dane County targeting underserved populations.

So people like Ford have an equal shot at the vaccine.

“A little prick compared to being on an oxygen machine is better. I think so,” Ford said.

Thursday is the big day for Ford. She’s set to get her first dose of Moderna bringing her steps closer to a full vaccination.

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